An Invitation to unplug your family and get bored outdoors

You’re probably wondering if you read that right. Unplugging so we can get bored? Why? 

Unless you’ve been successfully unplugged for the last couple of years, you’ve probably come across numerous articles and reports explaining the physical and mental health risks overuse of “smart” devices has on our children and us adults too. You may have been surprised to learn how detrimental “connectivity” is to the imagination, creativity and socialising. And this is where good old fashion time outdoors and boredom can be powerful antidotes.

My invitation to get bored really should be understood as an invitation to rely on what kids nowadays can view as boring, time outdoors without any devices. Because in reality, this «boring» scenario is the opportunity to be creative, be self-reliant, de-stress, increase energy levels, build confidence, reduce depression, and improve physical fitness.

But I get it. It can seem daunting to unplug and such a struggle to introduce this to your family. So here are a few ideas to make getting «bored» outdoors doable and yes, even fun:

Close the house

Simple and effective. On a chosen day close the house, as in get everyone out the door and lock it up, for 2 hours. No other plans. Some initial resistance is to be expected but just let the experiment take its course. Let the kids lead and see where their imaginations take them and you.

Plant the seed

Not wanting boredom to turn into a whining fest it can be judicious to provide a little inspiration. I love a “boredom” jar for that. All you need is some paper, a pen and a jar. On each paper write down a word. It can really be anything: a colour, a size, a shape, a feeling… Fold the papers up and place them into the jar. Next time you want to have some outdoor time and are met with eye rolling, get one of you to pick one paper from the jar and head outdoors with the mission to find 10 things outdoors that are the given colour, or is the size of, or has the shape of, or makes you feel like… Other than the initial instruction just let them explore and invent add-ons.

Tap into what they already like

Do you have an amateur photographer? An artist? A musician? Or a bookworm? Have them take part in their favourite activity but outdoors. Head off to a local park, a nearby forest or mountain trail not for outdoor time per say but rather framing it within their interest: to take nature pictures; to create nature art; to experiment how sounds echoes in the open with their instrument; or why not to create a cozy reading place under a tree.

Use the magic of the forest

A walk through the forest can turn into so much more with a little preparation or a simple prompt. It could be a treasure hunt or an already made obstacle course. Perhaps a competition to build the highest stick tower, a blank canvas to draw on with a stick, a log house building project or an already made jungle gym.  

Make it a challenge

Set up a month challenge for some daily outdoor time and see who can have the longest consecutive daily run. Set some ground rules. For example, how long the outdoor time needs to be for it to count towards the challenge. Taking a little time each day around the dinner table to check in on everyone’s progress keeps the challenge fresh in the mind. A simple challenge winner prize like a personalised t-shirt for your “annual” family Outdoor Challenge can easily turn this little healthy competition into an outdoor family tradition.

To get you started on this outdoor unplugging time, head over to our website where I’ve created a bundle of free print outs to use with the ideas above:

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